Richard II, Donmar Warehouse, London
Company, Crucible, Sheffield
The Ladykillers, Gielgud, London

Michael Grandage’s departure from the Donmar is marked by Shakespeare’s tale of an ambitious new arrival on the throne

Eddie Redmayne’s King Richard looks like an ivory tower personified. In Shakespeare’s drama of power struggle, Richard II – staged by Michael Grandage, the Donmar’s outgoing artistic director – Redmayne is an etiolated beanpole, robed in white from top to toe.

In a gilded throne room heavy with incense, this young royal is cultivating an aura of sanctified majesty. Redmayne barely deigns to make eye contact with his genuflecting courtiers.

His frailty is apparent, however, as soon as two feuding nobles storm in and demand that he adjudicate. With his lip twitching like a nervous rabbit, Redmayne blinks myopically, even while trying to assert his authority.

Far from restoring the peace, he sets in motion his own ruin by banishing his cousin. Incensed, Andrew Buchan’s Bolingbroke will return to head a rebel army, depose Richard and, of course, be crowned Henry IV.

Grandage’s staging is certainly handsome with its shimmering silks, glinting armour and silver shafts of light. The medieval costumes actually make the modern-day reverberations more startling: the arrogant top dog Richard being toppled by a mass insurrection, having heaped taxes on the common folk and stuffed his own coffers with gold.

Unfortunately, Redmayne’s performance proves a disappointment. He is, as yet, not sufficiently assured to capture all of Richard’s mercurial complexities. The facial twitches seem increasingly superficial. His glazed stare means he hardly connects with anyone emotionally. Though he repeatedly talks of weeping, his fall inspires no tears, and his devastated poetic monologues were nervously rushed on press night.

He has his sharp moments when compelled to hand over the crown, twisting between cowed defeat and still imperious jibes. Buchan’s stony-faced Bolingbroke needs to be thrown on to the back foot more decisively at those points. Both of them are, in fact, outshone by Pippa Bennett-Warner in the cameo role of Isabel, Richard’s devoted, fiery queen. Also, three cheers for their outstanding elders, Ron Cook giving the turncoat Duke of York a sardonic edge; Phillip Joseph (why don’t we see more of this actor?) a passionately appalled Bishop of Carlisle; and Michael Hadley’s dying John of Gaunt, speaking like a feverous visionary of “this sceptred isle” as he condemns Rich-ard’s consuming vanity.

Though this isn’t Grandage’s best production, he has been rightly fanfared for his achievements over nearly a decade at the Donmar, whence he departs for pastures new in January.

Is every American's home his castle? If so, in Company, Stephen Sondheim's musical from 1970, Robert's defences are down. His apartment is about to be invaded by his New York coterie who, unlike him, have all married. They come bearing gifts and a birthday cake twinkling with 35 candles in Jonathan Munby's upmarket production at the Sheffield Crucible.

Robert's bachelor pad would be a draw for anyone with an eye for a converted warehouse. What a stunner: soaring columns, a spiralling staircase and, through the vast window, Manhattan's dimly glimmering skyline (design by Christopher Oram).

But will Robert (Daniel Evans) embrace his friends with bounding delight, or flee the surprise party, being a guy on the verge of a mid-life crisis? Sondheim can have it both ways. He plays around with alternative endings and jumps back and forth in time, as we share Robert's shifting views on the conjugal life. He has half a mind to tie the knot, bursting into his number "Marry me a little". But then his wedded pals mix encouraging nudges with jaded asides and sly suggestions that he might like to play around with them, while the spouse is away.

I have to say the Seventies look doesn't do Evans many favours: a clingy shirt, kipper tie and moth-eaten shag perm. Personally, I also wanted more bleak moments and less cute comedy than this revival supplies. Still, Evans, an old hand at Sondheim, has drive and polish. Samantha Spiro delivers her hyper- ventilating patter as Amy, the terrified bride, with brio. Francesca Annis's rich, bored Joanna – chic but with a rough croak – is very New York. And Damian Humbley's Harry muses on the ups and downs of being hitched in "Sorry-Grateful" with extraordinary, probing poignancy.

Rather than a round of seductions, a dastardly liquidation seems inevitable in The Ladykillers for, of course, this new West End staging (transferred from Liverpool Playhouse) is an adaptation of the big-screen Ealing comedy of 1955.

In this cod-thriller, Marcia Warren's dotty Mrs Wilberforce is a little old widow who thinks her gentleman-lodger, Professor Marcus (Peter Capaldi in the Alec Guinness role), is rehearsing in his bedroom with his charming string quartet. In fact, he and his flailing, screwball cronies are trying to mastermind a heist and stash the loot under Mrs W's nose: until, that is, she smells a rat and, tutting primly, insists they call the rozzers to confess.

Directed by Sean Foley (of the zany physical theatre company The Right Size), this ought to be a romping hoot. Michael Taylor's set is spectacular: an insanely skew-whiff, spinning house, the heist scene playfully staged with toy cars and vans whizzing up the walls.

Certainly, Warren is a tootling triumph, and James Fleet is priceless as the tweedy conman and closet cross-dresser Major Courtney. Playing the geezer Harry, Stephen Wight is fantastic at slapstick, getting biffed left right and centre, and Ben Miller is droll, too, as the knife-lobbing gangster, Louis.

Yet somehow all their brilliant bits don't add up to a total blast. Clive Rowe isn't quite pulling his weight as the dimwit One-Round. Capaldi's frantic darting wears thin, and the dialogue (adapted by Graham Linehan from William Rose's screenplay) keeps dipping, creating slack patches rather than escalating hilarity. So, ultimately, enjoyable enough but not unmissable.

'Richard II' (0844 871 7624) to 4 Feb; 'Company' (0114-249 6000) to 7 Jan; 'The Ladykillers' (0844 482 5130) booking to 18 Feb

Next Week

Kate Bassett heeds the call of a new Joe Penhall at the Royal Court

Theatre Choice

The Heart of Robin Hood is the RSC's family treat with a twist: a feisty Maid Marian and a ski-slope set. It's at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, till 7 Jan. The British debut of Neil LaBute's Reasons to be Pretty is edgy, tender and funny, with Tom Burke and Siâ* Brooke as ex-lovers (Almeida, to 14 Jan).

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada